My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Why Birmingham was Better than Manchester

Manchester in the early nineteenth-century struck observers as the very epitome of industrial commercial society. Tocqueville, who visited, was both impressed and horrified: “Everything in the exterior appearance of this city attests the individual powers of man; nothing the directing power of society. At every turn human liberty shows its capricious creative force.” Streams he described as “the Styx of this new Hades”, streets as “this damp, dark labyrinth”, man as “turned back almost into a savage”. [Quoted in Andrew Lees, Cities Perceived: Urban Society in European and American Thought, 1820 – 1940 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), pp. 63-4.] 

Chartism was strong in Manchester, but attempts to ally with middle class reformers there after 1842 failed. In contrast, Birmingham was the epicentre of agitation for electoral reform before 1832: a formidable Political Union there coordinated vigorous agitation, and the local middle classes threatened a tax-strike.

Here's Richard Cobden explaining why Birmingham was more politically progressive - a bastion of support for Reform and of the Anti-Corn Law League - than Manchester:

The honest and independent course taken by the people at Birmingham, their exemption from aristocratic snobbery, and their fair appreciation of a democratic aim of the people, confirms me in the opinion I have always had that the social and political state of that town is far more healthy than that of Manchester; and it arises from the fact that the industry of the hardware district is carried on by small manufacturers, employing a few men and boys each, sometimes only an apprentice or two; whilst the great capitalists of Manchester form an aristocracy, individual members of which wield an influence over sometimes two thousand persons. The former state of society is more natural and healthy in a moral and political sense. There is a freer intercourse between all classes than in the Lancashire town, where a great and impassable gulf separates the workman from his employer.
[Quoted in J. A. Hobson, and Neville Masterman, Richard Cobden: the International Man (London: Benn, 1968), p. 194.]

This is a pretty materialist and class-based analysis from the great radical liberal (who Marx called "the representative of the industrial bourgeoisie").


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